Syrian troops blast Homs, residents plead for help
[Al Ahram] Syrian forces on Wednesday hammered rebel belts in the central city of Homs, where besieged residents desperately pleaded for humanitarian assistance, and in the northern city of Aleppo
...For centuries, Aleppo was Greater Syria's largest city and the Ottoman Empire's third, after Constantinople and Cairo. Although relatively close to Damascus in distance, Aleppans regard Damascenes as country cousins...
, a watchdog said.
Shells rained down from early morning on parts of Homs and on the nearby town of Qusayr, near the Leb border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The army has intensified operations against Homs and Qusayr, which have been besieged by regime forces for months, vowing to overrun them by the end of the week to free up troops for battle zones in the north, such as Aleppo.
The onslaught has sent a new flood of refugees across the border into Leb, a Lebanese security official said, who noted on Tuesday that up to 400 people had crossed the frontier in a 24-hour period.
An activist in the Homs Old City, reached via Skype on Wednesday, said the district was "totally surrounded."
"There is no way out. Our situation is so bad it makes anyone cry," said the activist, who identified himself as Abu Bilal.
"The field hospitals are full of injured people needing operations and who need to be evacuated. There is no way out at all, at all."
The Old City neighbourhood of Homs has been under total siege by the army for more than four months. According to the Observatory, thousands of civilians remain trapped in the Old City and other besieged, rebel-held districts of the city rebels refer to as "the capital of the revolution."
"We call on the International Committee of the Red Thingy, and on the Red Islamic Thingy, to come to our assistance," said Abu Bilal.
The ICRC made several failed attempt
Curses! Foiled again!
s in the early summer to enter into Homs. The army and rebels exchanged blame for a failed ceasefire, a prerequisite for the mission's entry to evacuate maimed and civilians.
In Qusayr, the situation was "terrible" overnight, activist Hadi al-Abdallah told AFP via Skype on Wednesday.
"People are afraid of what might happen if the army enters into the rebel-held areas of Qusayr. They say they would prefer to die in the shelling than be executed by the army," said Abdallah.
Qusayr has been in rebel hands -- and under siege -- since September last year. The Observatory says thousands of people are trapped in the town, and that the only way out is via secret tunnels.
"There is no way out for anyone here," said Abdallah.
The Observatory also reported heavy shelling on Wednesday against a string of rebel-held neighbourhoods in Aleppo, which has been the theatre since mid-July of an increasingly bloody battle between rebels and the army.
The Britannia-based watchdog, which collates information from a network of activists and medics on the ground, added that on Tuesday alone 22 civilians died in a shelling blitz against Aleppo.
The Observatory added that 180 people died across the country on Tuesday -- 84 civilians, 45 rebels and 51 soldiers.
Posted by: Fred